How much will the collaboration cost my business?
The cost of collaborating with academia can range anywhere from a short student project right through to a more substantial investment in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). (See our funding page for a more comprehensive list of available funding.)
These work experience opportunities match students with businesses to undertake a defined project, either on a part-time or full-time basis. The cost of student projects can vary between being free-of-charge to out-of-town expenses to paying a wage. In the case of Active Gate, the company was given the chance to work with over 150 business studies students. In addition to giving the students the opportunity to run a project and pitch to a real company, the project resulted in the launch of a new website for the company as well as the employment of two of the students.
In collaboration with the University of the West of Scotland, Envirodigital developed a carbon footprint widget for webcast events to capture data around the carbon emissions avoided by attending an event virtually. However, webcasting technologies advanced dramatically and the central idea of how the widget launched with online webcasts became redundant.
Envirodigital approached Interface to source the expertise necessary for further development of the idea within the changing technological landscape. Interface introduced Envirodigital to Edinburgh Napier University and a student placement project was developed, resulting in new company-owned IP and a demonstrable product, at no cost to Envirodigital.
Standard Innovation Voucher awards for up to the value of £5,000 are available to offset the costs of an initial collaborative project between an SME and one of Scotland’s Higher Education Institutes. This must be matched, either in cash or in kind, by the company.
Thanks to Innovation Voucher funding, Solar Bear has created a 10 week pilot to test the concept of a deaf theatre short course. The success of this pilot led to the creation of a full short course and summer school programme. Now in its second year, the short courses run 40 weeks of the year and now have 9 regular student participants. Gerry Ramage, Artistic Director, Solar Bear Theatre Company says, “Thanks to the initial Innovation Voucher funding we know that the new BA Degree course will give deaf actors the skills and confidence to succeed in what is a very competitive market."
The budget for any individual KTP, and an organisation’s contribution to it, depends on the duration of the specific Partnership. The typical ten-week shorter KTP will cost around £9,500. Projects are part-funded by a government grant - normally 60% for a micro business or a SME, and 40% for a large enterprise. The remaining costs are met by the company partner. Currently, average annual project costs for a long-term strategic project are approximately £60,000.
FMC Technologies is a leading global provider of technology solutions for the energy industry. Seeking to identify new opportunities for safe and efficient oil recovery, Interface linked them with Glasgow Caledonian University in an extensive 5-year project. As part of their collaboration, GCU and FMC had two Knowledge Transfer Projects (KTPs) approved. The projects involved KTP associates working on the development of electronics and sensors, as well as software, to develop new intelligent sensors for the oil and gas industry.
A unique solution to funding the cost of collaborating is illustrated by the project between Robop Ltd and the University of St Andrews.
Robop Ltd was founded in 2001 to develop a robotic bird that looked and acted like a Peregrine Falcon, with the aim of deterring seagulls, pigeons, and other vermin-like birds. Whilst Robop was a commercial success, there were certain situations in which the mechanical bird did not function effectively.
Facilitated by Interface, Robop embarked on a scientific collaboration with the University of St Andrews to help in the development of new variants of the Robop concept, ultimately improving the effectiveness of the product. The company entered into a collaboration agreement, signed in 2009, with the University of St Andrews in which the company pays the University royalties on the sales of the improved Robop in return for their consultancy services. These royalties are in lieu of an up-front payment for services received.
The improved technology has been employed by an ever-growing blue chip customer base and has, so far, been exported to 15 different countries – a win for both the company in increased sales, and the University, who receives royalties on the sales.
How long do the projects tend to last?
In terms of timescales to outcomes, collaborations can be relatively quick when dealing with product testing. Projects going through the SFC Innovation Voucher Scheme are expected to be completed within a 3-month period while KTP projects can run for a number of years.